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Protesters call for Toronto mayor to step down

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With two years remaining in his first term as mayor, outraged citizens rallied at Toronto City Hall on Tuesday to show their enmity towards Rob Ford and demand his resignation.

“I don’t hate him,” said rally organizer Nick Van der Graaf.

“I love the city but it’s facing serious problems. And there is a vacuum of leadership at the top. He’s neglecting his duties. He’s either too busy in court or doing his football practice. Half the time, he doesn’t show up for council meetings. And we deserve better.”

Van der Graaf doesn’t believe the mayor can change his ways or has any intention of resigning.

“But I’m certainly hoping the judge in his conflict case will find him guilty and he’ll have to step down,” he said.

Growing frustrated with people who were dissatisfied with the mayor’s performance but just sit at home and “bitch” about it, Van der Graaf organized Tuesday’s rally in the hopes that people would come out and voice their opinion about the “extremely poor performance” of mayor Ford.

Even a lot of the people who voted for Ford believe he’s not doing his job, he said.

“He’s always getting in trouble by opening his big mouth and saying something that is so embarrassing and ill-informed that it’s making (its way into) newspaper reports around the world,” said Van der Graaf.

“The guy is internationally famous now and not for good reasons.”

Michael Laxer agreed with that assessment.

“Ford personally is a buffoon I suppose,” said Laxer. “But it’s what he represents that I think is dangerous for the city of Toronto.”

An ideology, Laxer said, that doesn’t support social programs, public transit or other infrastructure that are vital to a diverse city like Toronto.

“And now his administration has been involved in the kind of gravy train politics that he was allegedly elected to oppose,” he said.  “He skips important city council meetings to coach football.”

Laxer held a sign that read, “The Most Embarrassing Mayor Ever” and said laughingly, “He’s stolen the title from Mel Lastman.”

But it’s no laughing matter for Laxer that Ford has become a handicap for Toronto as it struggles to maintain its status as progressive city in the eyes of many around the world.

Laxer liked the idea of a lunch hour rally because, he said, it showed passersby that there are people who strongly oppose the mayor and want him out of office.

Since the Grey Cup festival had a permit to occupy Nathan Phillips Square, the rally began on the Queen Street sidewalk.

Most protesters carried a sign, including Vickie McPhee.

“Rob Ford made the people believe that he was honest and down to earth,” said McPhee. “He’s made an ass of himself and so it’s time to go.”

Later on, the protesters moved towards the Nathan Phillips Square fountain where they watched the Ford brothers and several city councillors let loose in a game of football. 

The water had been replaced with artificial turf that was numbered and lined to resemble a football field. 

“Rob Ford resign,” chanted the protesters.

But that didn’t appear to phase Ford or any of his teammates. And the media didn’t pay much attention either. They were too caught up in the game. 

But a few television photographers came over to the sidelines to grab some footage of the protesters. And one or two media took the time to interview a couple of protesters.

“He believes himself to be above the law,” said Melissa Goldstein. “He claims to be cutting gravy and yet he wastes taxpayer money getting city employees to do special favours with city resources.”

Even though Goldstein wasn’t holding her breath waiting for the mayor to resign, she said Tuesday’s rally was a clever way to bring attention to citizens’ concerns.

Along with the football game, protesters also had to compete with the loud music blaring through the square as well as the highest urban zipline that stretched from the City Hall towers all the way to Queen Street.

But they weren’t backing off, still intent on getting their message across about the mayor.

Emilia Barc came to the rally to advocate on behalf of cyclists.

“He seems not to be very fond of us,” said Barc. “The removal of the Jarvis bike lanes tells you that.”

Even though long time cyclist Wayne Scott is tired of being treated like a “second class citizen” by the mayor’s allies on city council, he thinks there might be a glimmer of hope for Rob Ford.

“I still have hopes that Rob Ford can be shocked back to reality,” said Scott. 

“I don’t think he is as big a problem as the people that are manipulating him and destroying this country.”

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